Types of research projects

Descriptive research project --

Descriptive research projects are designed to provide systematic information about a social phenomena. The researcher does not begin with hypotheses, but is likely to develop hypotheses after collecting data.  Systematic information means careful selection of the units studied and careful measurement of each  variable.
          Example: The Center for Disease Control report, "Tobacco Use among High School Students" (in Reader) is Descriptive. The Editorial Note at the end shows that it also is policy research.
Exploratory research --
In exploratory research, the researcher explores a setting, a social phenomena. Some descriptive or explanatory studies begin with exploration.  This exploratory work provides background  information needed to plan descriptive or explanatory research. Other research projects are entirely exploratory, even though they can go on for years.
         Example:  When you try out an operational definition, you are doing exploratory research. Ethnographic studies usually are considered explanatory

 Explanatory research projects --

Here the researcher begins with ideas about the possible causes of a social phenomenon,  i.e., the researcher develops hypotheses before collecting any data. The researcher then plans a study that can provide systematic evidence supporting (or not supporting) these initial ideas about cause. The data collected also provide systematic description.
         Examples:   Harrell's study of pedestrian behavior and North's study of music and on-hold waiting.
Evaluation research or policy-related research --
Evaluation research is designed so that the findings will provide information useful in for decisions about public policy or private issues. Each kind of research project described above also can be evaluation research.  [In making policy decisions, findings from other kinds of research (i.e., research not initially designed for policy purposes) also is useful and used.]
        Examples: Harrell's study, North's study, and the study of tobacco use are all policy-related.
Fill in this chart, using the symbols: Y for "yes, by definition,"    N "no, by definition,"  or   Y/N  "can be yes or no"

                                        starts with hypothesis      systematic data collection   designed for
Exploratory project     _____     _____     _____
Descriptive project     _____     _____     _____
Explanatory Project     _____     _____     _____
Evaluation Research     _____     _____     _____